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Vintage 1940s Makeup Styles
and Fashions of the Working Woman Era

The 1940's era redefined women and set the stage for later feminist thought on the history of women. For the first time in the country's history, the average woman was expected to lead two disparate lives; homemaker and wife of a man at war, and factory worker. So well had women learned their places that, when the majority of men went to war, there was no one to work in the factories and shipyards. It didn't take long for the government to realize that women were the only way to produce the equipment and supplies needed to run a war. Some women were delighted to enter the workforce, seeing it as the first time in their lives that they could achieve economic independence. Other women really believed that it was unfeminine to work outside the home. They refused to go to work. But using cajolery, flattery and outright threats, the government sent the women to work—for the Forties.
Bridal Makeup

Forties Clothing Fashions

Fashion for real women follows function and form. Women were '40s morale-boosters—dresses had small waists, tight busts and full skirts. Women were expected to tighten their belts; silk stockings disappeared when silk was used for parachutes and other wartime items, and women drew lines up the backs of their legs with eyebrow pencils to simulate stocking seams. Thin figures were in: shoulder pads made their first appearances on the female figure. Women's jobs were male jobs—welding and soldering, building and production—so, at work, they were wearing costumes like coveralls and denims. Many women discovered the comfort and ease of wearing pants, and actresses like Katherine Hepburn and Bette Davis made trousers for women into lasting trends.

40’s Swing Dancing Makeup Trends

Makeup was affected by the war, which turned many women's thoughts away from romance and towards simplicity. Lips were a true, patriotic red; creamy skin was powdered and smoothly pink. Mascara had founds its place on women's faces, although it may have been worn more after work. Romance and practicality fought each other on the home front, where women wanted to look beautiful even whether swing dancing or working shifts at a shipyard or factory. To make up was a way of maintaining one's feeling of femininity in a world that was challenging women to take on more of the man's role than was ever allowed before.

1940s Women’s Hair Styles

Hairstyles were smooth and longer; the pared-down look of the Thirties gave way to the more romantic, softer look of the War Years. The Bob haircuts disappeared; women were going for longer locks, even if they did have to be pinned up at work. Curlers and irons created wavy hair that was pulled away from the face. Forties' hair styles were glamorous and high maintenance. You could wear your hair down, with long, rolling curls, like Lauren Bacall, or up for evening in a chignon with lots of accompanying waves and curls. Fingerwaves and pincurls were still among the hair designer's repertoire, and many women slept on curlers or did the dishes with their hair in a bandana to cover the pincurls drying tightly against the head. And hair color wasn't unheard of: peroxide became the way to have more fun as women turned blond in salons and at home.

1940's women were asked to do a lot, and working for the war effort took a toll. But glamour was in, fresh from Hollywood, and women who were earning their first paychecks were also shopping, dressing elegantly and using cosmetics like movie stars. Part of the rationale was that the nation's women couldn't afford to look frumpy in a time of war; the other reason for spending so much time and effort on one's appearance was to stay somewhat positive and optimistic. "Putting a brave face on" was more than an interior process: wearing makeup and nice clothes was a statement of self-worth and confidence.

Vintage party themes or ideas for the '40s decade include the uniformed swing dance, which mimics dances held in USO canteens throughout the war. Costumes include military dress uniforms for men, and WAC, WAVE or Red Cross uniforms or party dresses for women.

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